Why is this hate-week such a let-down?

Submitted by AC1997 on November 26th, 2013 at 1:36 PM

(Note:  I was just about to post this prior to Brian's post about the "fickle" fans.  I actually think this relates very closely to that discussion and doesn't even bring the obvious financial impact into the debate.)  

It probably won’t surprise any readers of this site when I say that I’ve had many a debate with fellow fans recently about the way this season has unfolded.  One such recent debate with my brother centered around why everyone seems so frustrated and is writing off the OSU game entirely.  His argument was that we never used to feel that way under Lloyd Carr – even though Carr had more seasons with 3 or more losses than he did with fewer than 3.  The initial theories we debated for why we are so more negative this season were:

  • In the information age it is easier to be an arm-chair coach with the advanced metrics, easy to obtain video, sites like MGoBlog, etc.
  • We’re headed into year 7 of frustration and are just less patient than we were under Carr.
  • Brian Cook is like the pied piper of negativity for his readership and we should all stare at videos of cats and feel better about ourselves instead of letting Brian corrupt our minds.
  • Perhaps Carr wasn’t very good and “This Is Michigan” really means “We’re likely to have 3-4 losses and shouldn’t be surprised like we are right now."

That last point got me to thinking – why can’t I remember heading into an OSU game prior to Rich Rodriguez being hired where I felt there was zero chance of winning or that the season was a failure like I have so many times since then?  John Cooper obviously helped that perception, but that wasn’t all of it.  Why are we so bitter now but weren’t even in Carr years with 3 losses?

Hypothesis:

Prior to doing the research my hypothesis was that we stayed optimistic as fans because we ALWAYS played close games when Carr was coaching.  No matter who we were playing, we had a chance.  Our frustration with Carr at times was that he was so conservative that we played down to lesser opponents and that resulted in narrow victories or the occasional surprising upset.  But no matter who we were playing, we felt we had a chance. 

Chart!

So I created a chart of Carr’s final decade of coaching.  I only went back to 1997 since MGoBlue’s records only go back that far and this is the portion of his career where his reputation was built and what earned him a lifetime contract:

Season Overall Record
(pre-OSU)
B10 Record
(pre-OSU)
Final Record
(pre-bowl)
Losses (score) Losses by
>10 points
1997 9-0 7-0 10-0 none 0
1998 8-2 7-0 8-3 @ND (36-20), Syr (38-28), @OSU (31-16) 2
1999 8-2 5-2 9-2 @MSU (34-31), ILL (35-29) 0
2000 7-3 5-2 9-2 @UCLA (23-20), @Purdue (32-31), @NU (54-51) 0
2001 8-2 6-1 8-3 @Wash (23-18), @MSU (26-24), OSU (26-20) 0
2002 9-2 6-1 9-3 @ND (25-23), Iowa (34-9), @OSU (14-9) 1
2003 9-2 6-1 10-2 @ORE (31-27), @Iowa (30-27) 0
2004 9-1 7-0 9-2 @ND (28-20), @OSU (37-21) 1
2005 7-3 5-2 7-4 ND (17-10), @WI (23-20), MN (23-20), OSU (25-21) 0
2006 11-0 8-0 11-1 @OSU (42-39) 0
2007 8-3 6-1 8-4 APSt (34-32), ORE (39-7), @WI (37-21), OSU (14-3) 3

 

First, a comment on the chart:  I admittedly ignored bowl games in this analysis.  I did this because I’m measuring whether fans were still interested, happy, and optimistic leading up to the end of the regular season.  Bowl games are a black mark on Carr’s resume, but that’s a separate discussion. 

Conclusion:

I think I’ve proven the hypothesis to be true.  In the span of a decade Carr had only SEVEN games where we lost by more than 10 points.  If you throw out his swan-song season of 2007 that number drops to an amazing FOUR.  Think about that - in a full ten years we were blown out just four times!  This includes trips to Oregon, UCLA, Washington, OSU, MSU, and Notre Dame just to name a few.   In Brady Hoke’s three seasons we’ve had as many blowout losses as we had over a ten-year span during Carr’s career. 

With Carr we may have had a couple of frustrating losses in a season, but we never entered a game knowing we had no realistic chance to win.  THAT is what we’re longing for as fans and why this season feels so different when we look at the OSU game.

But there’s more! 

While looking over that chart something else dawned on me that added to the conclusion.  Look at the conference record heading into the OSU game.  Not once did we enter the OSU game with more than two conference losses.  Never!

If you go back to the previous statement that from 1997-2006 we had just four blowout losses you’ll see that two of those were following the national championship season.  Yet immediately following those two losses we went on an 8-game winning streak and entered the game against OSU with a 7-0 conference record and chance for a title.  So the one season in that period where we looked vulnerable still resulted in the OSU game having immense meaning and hope.  

Not only did we compete in every game we played in, we almost always were still in contention for that conference title that Hoke talks about.

Final Thoughts:

When Brady Hoke or any member of the fan base talk about getting back to what defined Michigan, this is what they mean.  We were never the national juggernaut that Alabama has become – so dreams of undefeated regular seasons are probably misguided.  But what we were for nearly Carr’s entire career (and that of Moeller and Bo before him) was a team that would compete in ANY GAME.  We were a team that would get to the end of the season with something on the line more often than not and knew we could compete with OSU every year. 

The reason we’re so frustrated and bitter this season is not just because we can’t win the conference title or are still bitter about RichRod – it is because we know we have no realistic chance of competing with OSU.  Making matters even worse, we’ve already proven we have no realistic chance of beating our other main rival and get to watch MSU play for a title against OSU.  

While I agree with Brian 100% on the financial aspect of the red jerseys we'll see in the stands Saturday, I also believe that if our team was capable of upsetting our undefeated rival the stands would be full of blue jerseys.  Just as they were for all of those Carr seasons, despite knowing we weren't headed to the national championship game.  

Comments

Buckid1

November 26th, 2013 at 3:33 PM ^

I sympathize with my friends from the north and I am too upset with Michigan football. More pointedly I am dissapointed with Brady Hoke. Ohio State and the BIg Ten needs Michigan to be strong. I know I am in the minority, however I want Michigan and Ohio State to be undefeated going into the game every year. It is good for the rivalry, it is good for the BIG and it is good for College Football. I feel cheated by Brady Hoke, I think he sold us all a load of horseshit. I am not saying that he needs to be fired, but he needs to start winning (after this Sat.) If he doesnt turn it around next year then can his chubby ass! Michigan deseves a better coach and a better football program. Hopefully we see a good game this weekend. GO BUCKS!

caliblue

November 26th, 2013 at 6:49 PM ^

but if we can hold you guys to less than a 14 pt win and make you work for a victory it will be a good day. Thousands of your fans are coming to see a once in a lifetime full out thumping. I hope they are disappointed

M-Dog

November 27th, 2013 at 10:04 PM ^

Plus, a less than 14 point loss by a dreadful Michigan team to Ohio State pretty much knocks OSU out of the NC picture unless FSU loses.  They may even get jumped by a 1 loss SEC team if they also struggle to beat MSU.

Since we can't ruin your season by beating you, we've figured out a way to do it by losing.  That's progress I guess.

Wolverine 73

November 26th, 2013 at 2:36 PM ^

I think people expected this to be a really good year since it was year three of the Hoke regime, some top notch recruits were coming on line, and the first two games were pretty awesome.  Instead, the team has been outplayed by teams with theoretically inferior talent, and most disturbingly has seemed to regress rather than improve as the year has gone forward.  Bo's teams always got better late in the year.  Just a really depressing year.

saveferris

November 26th, 2013 at 3:41 PM ^

I would argue that on the defensive side of the ball, we've seen improvement.  Not huge improvement, but the unit has not gotten worse as the season has progressed.  Had the offense found a way to operate more competently in the second half of this season, the game this weekend would have much more meaning.

I will make not such argument with regards to the offense.  That has gotten worse, without a doubt.  There are numerous reasons for it, but the regression on offense is a huge disappointment and source of frustration.

Maized n Confused

November 26th, 2013 at 2:48 PM ^

Because our team is bad and only getting worse. We have no championship to play for and no chance of beating tOSU. Meanwhile, the Suckeyes are only getting better and they do have a championship to play for. I never felt this way about the team during the Carr era, but this is the fourth time in the past six seasons that I've felt this way leading up to the Ohio State game.

Nobody Likes a…

November 26th, 2013 at 2:54 PM ^

"Whom the Gods wish to destroy, they first call promising"

You start a year with the night game and it feels like with hindsight it was only ever likely to end up in weeping and rending of garments.

I just genuinely wish I could find the courage to at least Irish wake style celebrate this season Saturday. Mostly I fear a pit of bottomless self loathing for the weekend. The hell with I'm going either way

saveferris

November 26th, 2013 at 4:05 PM ^

We were never the national juggernaut that Alabama has become – so dreams of undefeated regular seasons are probably misguided.

Let's be clear, nobody is the national juggernaut that Alabama has become. No program has ever done what Alabama is doing right now. Nobody. To any who suggest that Hoke could come in and produce those results, regardless of how good the recruiting has been is completely unrealistic.

To hold up Bama and suggest Hoke (or any coach of a major program for that matter) must achieve that or else it's a failure is completely ridiculous. OSU fans who think that Urban Meyer is going to pick up where Saban left off and take the Buckeyes to similar heights are kidding themselves, because this has only been done once EVER and likely won't be repeated again.

McFate

November 26th, 2013 at 6:34 PM ^

Oklahoma won 47 straight games between 1953 and 1957.

Nebraska won three MNCs in four years 1994-1997.

Florda State finished in the top 5 something like 15 years in a row in the '80s-'90s.

Southern Cal had a multiple-MNC run just recently, and had a dominant period in the '70s as well.

I think all of those are arguably in the vicinity of Alabama's recent run.  Maybe if Alabama wins three more MNCs in the next five years, they'll put some distance between themselves and others.

While I don't think Alabama's run is all that unique, I do agree that one can't use Alabama's recent success as a measuring stick.  That's a recipe for disappointment.  I'd set the goal as competing for the B1G title (being in the division race up to the final week) most years, making the B1G title game one year in three, winning the B1G one year in five, and making the new 4-team MNC playoff at least once a decade. 

That seems like a modest goal that should be achievable even if fans of Nebraska, Penn State, and Ohio State all believe they're entitled to the same thing.

Mpfnfu Ford

November 27th, 2013 at 4:10 AM ^

- The 70's Switzer Oklahoma wishbone teams that broke every rushing record.

- The U Hurricane teams 

I'm not trying to minmize what Alabama is currently doing, but the BCS system (while shitty) isn't nearly as capricious as the old WELL WE'LL JUST VOTE FOR THE CHAMPION system. Even the 90's Nebraska teams at least got a chance to play a 1-2 game unless the Rose Bowl had a top two game, and even then they got to play the 3rd ranked team in a pseudo championship game. As convoluted and stupid as that was, it was still better than jerks voting BEFORE THE BOWLS WERE EVEN PLAYED and that somehow meaning something.

Basically, if you're the best, you've had a better chance to actually prove it on the field since the BCS and it's non-Rose Bowl predecessors came into existence. That doesn't mean that teams like Oklahoma that just won 2 titles in the 70s weren't just as dominant. 

alum96

November 27th, 2013 at 1:15 PM ^

The problem is closer to home.  Lost in the mess of mediocre that has become UM football is OSU.  OSU has not been Alabama, they have been better in some measures (not in terms of winning NCs) but in terms of consistency.  Over the Tressel - Urban timeline they have consistenly cranked out 1-2 loss teams almost every year (save Fickell). 

So the question is not why can't we be like Alabama.  It is why can't we be like OSU?  Same money, same facilities, same recruiting, same disadvantage of not being in the SEC. 

Their consistency at not having truly average season has been impressive and THE Best of any team in the country the past 10+ years.  By average I mean 4 or more losses.

Since the 2002 season

  • 14-0
  • 11-2
  • 8-4
  • 10-2
  • 12-1
  • 11-2
  • 10-3
  • 11-2
  • 12-1
  • 6-7
  • 12-0
  • 11-0

 

Why can't we be Ohio State?

SirJack II

November 26th, 2013 at 4:21 PM ^

Carr may have been 7-4 or similiar in the week heading into The Game, but there are different ways to be 7-4. We're 7-4 in just about the worst way possible.

I felt the same way about Rodriguez's final 7-5 year.

A 7-4 Carr team might've underperformed a bit (and that might be an understatement) but it was never a total disaster over a span of games like we've seen under Rodriguez and Hoke. A 7-4 Carr team was always dangerous.

B-Nut-GoBlue

November 26th, 2013 at 7:22 PM ^

Call me a du-mahs but I had hope and felt a chance for vicory in 2009 and 2010 with RR.

I'm not as drastic in my doubts against Ohio this year but I think I very well may feel we have a lesser chance this year than in say, 2009.

BIGBLUEWORLD

November 26th, 2013 at 8:54 PM ^

People don't give Al Borges enough credit.

Yeah, we all know his play calling is pathetic.  But there's more.  Al Borges is destroying the mental toughness and competitive spirit of these young football players.  Al has no swagger; they have no swagge.  Al is conflicted about his strategy; they get confused.  Al is not a tough man; they lose toughness.

Watching the MGOBLUE clips, you sense these kids bring a good attitude.  You want to see them do well.  They deserve a coach who gives them the opportunity to enjoy this once in a lifetime experience and do the best they are able.  Al is not living up to his responsibility.

We hear about how players must compete to be on the field.  While this football fiasco is a downer for alumni and football fans, it's worse for these kids who work so hard, risk injury and play their hearts out.  Al Borges is not doing his job at a competitive level.  There is no reason for him to be anywhere near that field of honor.

Bardelang

November 26th, 2013 at 9:15 PM ^

I'm a huge supporter of Hoke, especially because of his recruiting and what seems like a person who has a tremendous passion for Michigan. It's hard to disagree however with the point that to me his teams so far just haven't had the mental toughness to win close game, and that isn't acceptable. Our defense is suppose to be the strength of this team, at least it sure seems that way now, and it's normally a decent bend but not break type of defense. Every single time the game becomes tight or it's a big moment, we break like cardboard, and it's always a mental mistake. Also this week i've tried to be an optimist because we're a different team and anything can happen in one game, but i find it hard to see a W being possible saturday. We already make more mistakes against Ohio than anyother team and add that on to the huge amount of mistakes we already make.....trouble 

B-Nut-GoBlue

November 26th, 2013 at 10:39 PM ^

Don't win close games?

Srsly?!  We've won quite our share the past few seasons, I'm not even going to list them as you already know them if you think even just a little.

The team has not broken every time it gets close in the end.  There have been a few let downs, sure.  The thing is, and I think many good football minds agree on this notion, this defense could be considered very good if the offense was better than it is.  The offense in ways has effected the defense and has made that unit look worse than it's really performing.

nmumike

November 27th, 2013 at 8:31 AM ^

is exactly how I feel. I do not dream of undefeated seasons year after year, or anything like that, because it is not reality. You have stated with your hypothesis the feelings that I long for. Competetiveness. I want us to compete with every team, and know that win or lose, we gave it our best, had a chance at the end, and can go home with little regret. Currently that is not the case. We look like our own worst enemy, cannot do anything on offense against a competent defense and seem to have regressed over the year. My feelings on who was going to win going into the OSU game for most of my life has always been at least close to a toss up, but over the past 6 years or so, that has changed, I hold out little hope, and just pray that we don't get blown out. We as fans want to see progress on the field, competetiveness, and some semblance that the people in charge have a plan that can work. Without hope, where are we as fans?

Greg McMurtry

November 28th, 2013 at 1:44 AM ^

Pre 2008. Haven't had that since. Which is why Hoke has to be retained (but Borges does not.) You win 9 or more games every few years because you need minor tweaks, not huge revamps. Also remember Carr fired assistants along the way too, if they weren't performing.

mvp

November 28th, 2013 at 2:35 AM ^

For most of Carr's tenure, I spent time trying to tell people why they were wrong on the internet.  It is one of the reasons I'm now a relatively infrequent poster.  I used to be one of the top (well at least most frequent) posters on another blog prior to MGoBlog rising to prominence.

I thought Carr was a really good coach doing really good things.  We didn't win a lot of national championships, but we contended twice in his 12 years and really had the goods in '97.

What I said then, and have said many times since is that Michigan was "more not bad" than any other team in the history of football.  We weren't ever a "dynasty" kind of team, but as has been shown in the charts above, we were right there all the time.  Prior to RichRod, the one thing we had that nobody else did, was our consistency of being really pretty good.

This drove many people bats#!^ crazy.  LOTS of people HATED Carr, whoever the starting QB was, and whichever corner had given up the most recent "unexcusable" touchdown.

Why weren't we winning more national championships?  Why weren't we #1 more often?  Why did we lose to team X in bowlgame Y?  For these fans, it was sort of like being a high-functioning alcoholic.  We were capable of *lots* of stuff, but at the end of the day, we were still diseased (in the minds of these people).

I was pretty happy for most of that time (with 2007 being an obvious low).  While being critical of a lot of individual choices Carr made, I was a huge supporter of the program and the tone that was set.  I spent a lot of emotion and energy trying to defend what I thought was precious.

The RichRod era killed all that.  It can be discussed and debated more than it already has, but whatever we had then died.  In an attempt to become the next HUGE thing, we became more like everyone else.  And we haven't picked ourselves up yet.  For what it's worth, I thought RR never had a fair chance but also managed to shoot himself in the foot.  I would have loved for his offense to take root here.  But while that never got a chance to really happen, we also sucked at defense.  This drove other people bats#!^ crazy and we fired RR and hired Hoke.

In 2011 we overachieved (anybody remember Brian and the days of Hoke uber alles?).  2012 was about right.  In 2013 we've underachieved and, either as a symptom or because of it, regressed substantially as this year progressed.  

Don't forget that Carr's first two years were no panacaea and that there were lots of comments from visiting teams that Michigan Stadium was not really that difficult a place to play.  Despite the last vestiges of Bo, the exciting offenses of Mo, and everything else the program had going for it, we still managed to lose games the fans felt we shouldn't have.

Right now the mediocrity we are exhibiting is the same mediocrity many teams have faced.  The open questions are whether Hoke is the guy to lead us out of this and whether the current staff is the right group to help him.  I guess time will tell.

Tater

November 29th, 2013 at 11:11 AM ^

Michigan didn't play a lot of spread teams when Carr was averaging three losses a year and keeping games within ten points.  The spread changed everything.  And our "fanbase" and AD were stupid enough to drive the person who created the fucking spread out of town.  

Carr's most devastating losses were to spread teams: Oregon and Appy State.  

In addition, during the first half of the 2006 Ohio game, Tressel came out in a pro-set version of the spread with "trips" the entire first half, thus ruining Michigan's chance to play for a national "championship."

Ohio State is kicking our asses and we deserve it.  I just hope that the meddling idiot in the AD's chair decides that the next OC is a spread guy after Al Borges is sacrificed at the altar of MANBALL.